London: Football’s global governing body was accused of “not caring” about the women’s game by World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe after including a previously little-known Venezuelan striker on its female player of the year shortlist.
The 18-year-old Deyna Castellanos, who does not play in a professional league, found herself in the running for the 2017 Best Fifa women’s player of the year award at the London Palladium on Monday alongside the likes of established internationals Carli Lloyd of the United States and the Netherlands’ European Championship-winning forward Lieke Martens.
A potentially embarrassing situation for Fifa was averted when Martens took the award, with Dutch boss Sarina Wiegman named Women’s Coach of the Year in further recognition of tournament hosts the Netherlands’ achievement in winning their first major female football title at the 2017 Women’s Euros.
Castellanos was also nominated for the goal of the year award for a stunning strike from almost on the halfway line for Venezuela against Cameroon at the 2016 Under-17 Women’s World Cup.
That award, however, went to Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud for the France striker’s ‘scorpion-kick’ strike against Crystal Palace in the English Premier League in January.
Shortly before the winners were announced, Rapinoe told the BBC: “The (women’s) award just doesn’t hold a lot of weight when you’ve got someone on the list I’ve never heard of.”
The 32-year-old Rapinoe, who has won 127 caps and helped the USA win both 2012 Olympic gold and the 2015 World Cup, indicated Castellanos’s inclusion on the women’s shortlist was patronising on the part of officials.
“It signals to us and it signals to the rest of the world that Fifa doesn’t really care,” she said.
However, Fifa insisted that Castellanos’s name had emerged legitimately from a ballot where, in common with the majority of Monday’s awards, votes were split evenly between national team coaches, national team captains, members of the media and fans.
“The process is clear and transparent and we are not involved in the final selection of nominees,” Fifa said in a statement.
“However, we have taken note of the concerns raised by the football community and our fans and will take this feedback on board in future editions of The Best Awards.”
Fifa chiefs risked further flak from within the women’s game over the scheduling of Monday’s ceremony after both Martens and Wiegman were unable to receive their awards in person because of the Netherlands’ World Cup qualifier at home to Norway on Tuesday.